Thursday, May 24, 2018
Books

What's Grammy winner and female vocalist Rickie Lee Jones reading?

Nightstand

Rickie Lee Jones

When we first reached out to Grammy-winning Jones, 58, it was in anticipation of a show scheduled at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. That show has been canceled, but we were still able to get Jones' take on literature, reading and writing. Known for her red beret and her ballads concerning the likes of Bragger and Young Blood, Cecil and Junior Lee, Jones released The Devil You Know, a collaboration with Ben Harper, in September. The project includes Jones' interpretations of songs like Neil Young's Only Love Can Break Your Heart, the Band's The Weight and the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.

What's on your nightstand?

Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy and Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. I'd also recommend reading the Bible for anyone who hasn't read it. The Koran, the Bible, books whole civilizations have been based on for thousands of years. I'd recommend reading, without prejudice … and by no prejudice, I mean without imagining that everything you read has any other meaning than the story you are reading. If you are not Christian, you should read the book, and if you are Christian, how could you not read the book?

(Earthsea) is a personal favorite, eloquent and simple. It is the story of a boy who becomes a great wizard but after doing terrible harm to himself and the world through his vanity and ignorance. It was written long before the Harry Potter debacle, where many of Ms. Rowlings' Potter literary details sprang. … Don't read it because it is the blueprint for the better selling series. Read it because, like all great art, it is a part of the blueprint for a genre that would be born in its wake.

When you were starting out as a songwriter, who inspired you?

I was inspired by the Beatles first. (Members of) Steely Dan were also icons to me — great lyricists and amazing composers, something to aspire to learn. Laura Nyro was a favorite for her unleashing of her emotion, and it didn't seem to matter if her intonation was sometimes wild, she was a true genius. It is emotion, not replicating knowledge or expanding on what is learned, but emotion that brings the unique character to art and takes us to new places.

Piper Castillo, Times staff writer

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